Vancouver in the late 90’s was a mecca for alternative lifestyles and healthy living. There were several full service health food stores, and alternative medicine was becoming all the rage. Around this time I worked at a popular juice bar where I was introduced to juicing as a way of life. Hippies flocked to this juice bar from far and wide and it quickly became a hot spot for discussing healthy lifestyles and alternative healing modalities.
A year later, I found myself on the Big Island in Hawaii searching for the purest lifestyle I could find. I ended up living at a raw food commune for several weeks discussing the merits of juicing with fruitarians and Y2K extremists. Their fruit orchard was their Garden of Eden, and they were prepared to defend it by any means possible – weapons and stake-outs not witholding – for after all, once the grid went down everyone would be clambering onto their land to steal their coveted fruit, right? Yes – I had journeyed to the extreme of juicing culture where fruits and vegetables were the panacea to all ailments, and where ovens and stovetops were the enemy. I left this community after a few weeks primarily because no one there ever laughed. But, it did lead me to question what the real merits of juicing were.
Now, as the owner of my own juice bar, I often get asked – what’s so great about juicing? It’s a fair question. On one hand, juicing helps the body to easily absorb nutrients and heal damaged tissue. On the other hand, juicing removes fiber from fruits and vegetables, leaving a beverage that is high in sugars, albeit natural ones.
Juicing raw fruits and vegetables preserves their original nutrient value and delivers the nutrients in a form that is easily and quickly assimilated with little strain to the body. With solid foods, the nutrients must be processed by the body, and are therefore absorbed more slowly. Since processing solid food requires a healthy digestive tract, juicing is very beneficial when the body is already strained or compromised due to illness or disease.
Research has shown that carotenoids (pigments in plants that function as free radical scavengers) are more bioavailable in fresh raw juice than in whole fruits and vegetables (carotenoids). Wheatgrass juice has helped thalassemia patients (a blood disease causing chronic anemia) reduce their blood transfusion requirements without causing side effects (clinicalwheatgrass). Pomegranate juice has helped with prostate cancer by prolonging PSA doubling time, reducing cell proliferation, increasing apoptosis, and reducing oxidative stress (study 1, study 2, study 3).
However with certain illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, juicing can certainly do more harm than good. The natural sugars in fresh orange juice can actually prompt a glycemic response similar to that of Coke (glycemic). And, the intake of high glycemic foods in adults with type 2 diabetes has been linked to memory impairment as well as a host of other health problems (memory).
So then, can a normal, healthy individual benefit from juicing? Research shows that drinking fresh, raw juices is beneficial for the average person. One study showed that drinking 100% pure juice in adolescents lowered their intake of dietary fats, saturated fats, and added sugars, and resulted in a higher intake of whole fruit (adolescence). Another study showed that drinking orange juice helps to neutralize the negative effects of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal by preventing oxidative and inflammatory stress (orangejuice). Drinking citrus juice with a meal also improves the absorption of dietary iron (iron).
So go ahead and have a glass of freshly squeezed juice with your meal, and “let food be your medicine.” Fresh raw juice is, in fact, a dietary medicine that has the potential to increase vitality and overall health.